Comparitech regularly reviews and tests antivirus for Windows computers. With dozens of potential free AV tools for Windows and Mac, it’s risky to pick a real-time AV without some additional research. The best free AV tools for Windows should be free forever and have features that work just as well as paid options. Pick the wrong one, and you may end up with an infected computer due to inadequate threat protection.
Below, you’ll find the top free antivirus programs we believe offer the best real-time and on-demand protection for your Windows computers.
Best free antivirus programs for Windows
Windows users have the largest choice when it comes to free antivirus programs. Given Windows has the largest market share for both consumers and businesses, it should come as no surprise that free options abound.
The 7 best free antivirus programs for Windows computers include:
- Avira Free Antivirus: Simple real-time antivirus protection without additional feature bloat
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free: One of the largest and most trusted names in antivirus protection
- Comodo FREE Antivirus: Offers fast, cloud-based malware scanning
- Sophos Home Free: Expansive number of free features
- Kaspersky Free Antivirus: Provides a large suite of free privacy tools alongside malware protection
- Adaware Antivirus Free: Automatically scans downloads and other activity for malicious activity
- Microsoft Windows Defender: A much-improved app already available on your Windows device
These free antivirus tools live up to the name “free”. They’re free forever, and not just free trials. That said, free apps are often limited. If you are looking for something a bit more robust, try a subscription-based antivirus app for Windows (many of which offer free trials).
What to look for in a free antivirus program
It’s common for Windows users to rely on virus protection software. Microsoft includes its home-grown Windows Defender software with every installation of Windows 10. We have nothing but good things to say about Windows Defender. And it’s proven itself in independent lab tests, including those conducted by AV-Test that show Windows defender gets perfect scores on all tested categories.
However, Windows Defender is even more bare-bones than third-party AV tools. And in today’s world, data security is about more than just malware removal.
A good free antivirus program does all of the following:
- Offers real-time virus protection, monitoring your network for malicious activity and blocking malware
- Automatically quarantines malware and other suspicious file downloads
- Provides these services at no cost to you, indefinitely, and not as a limited free trial
Additional features available through antivirus programs will vary. However, free real-time monitoring, quarantines, and malware removal are features that you must be included for the program to be worth your time.
SEE ALSO: We take a deeper dive into the best antivirus for Mac
Available for Windows users, Avira Free Antivirus is a fairly straightforward free real-time AV tool. While there’s a fully-featured paid version, the free option is for those who just need real-time antivirus protection and who may not plan to use or even need other features.
Avira’s free tool provides:
- Real-time malware protection
- Web protection against infected sites
- Blocks phishing attempts
This tool is ad-supported. You can remove ads and extend the number of available features with its paid tool. However, for free, the ads may be worth the headache.
Should you choose to upgrade, however, you’ll also get scanning for downloads and torrents, USB drives, and email attachments.
2. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Pulling in its powerful tool into a lightweight free option, Bitdefender now offers a free antivirus tool for Windows users. The free tool is a feature-limited version of the company’s paid program, but it still offers more bang for your lack-of-buck than Windows Defender.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition offers all of the following features:
- Advanced threat detection
- Virus scanning and removal
- Anti-phishing website blocking
- Anti-fraud website blocking
Bitdefender offers its free antivirus program for Android phones and tablets. The Android version also includes cloud scanning and uses minimal system resources to avoid draining your battery.
Users looking for more can upgrade to the full version of Bitdefender from within the application.
3. Comodo FREE Antivirus
Comodo is a large internet security company covering a wide range of security concerns, including antivirus. Download their cloud-based antivirus software for Windows can for free on your desktop or laptop computer.
With Comodo free, you’ll get a limited set of features, including:
- Free, real-time monitoring
- Advanced, cloud-based threat detection
- Sandboxing threats
- Whitelisting safe sites
- Application control
- Spyware scanning
- Customizable firewall
Comodo’s free antivirus uses the company’s Host Intrusion Protection System (HIPS). With HIPS, your computer is protected against known and unknown viruses. Malware that isn’t on a known blacklist is sandboxed away from the main system. Those threats are then taken care of in the quarantined environment, unable to interact with or impact your system. The software also uses predictive technology to help determine when a threat may occur from a file or website.
Alongside free protection for your computer, you can also download a free Comodo antivirus solution for your Android phone. Comodo’s free Android app has more features than every other Android option we’ve mentioned. With the Android app, you get real-time protection, scanning, scheduling, SMS and call blocking, and more.
Sophos is not as well known in the market as Bitdefender, but it’s an extremely respected brand. It delivers a wealth of features through its free tool and should be on anyone’s free antivirus shortlist.
With Sophos Free, you’ll get:
- Real-time antivirus protection
- Parental website filtering
- Web protection
- Remote device management
- Predictive artificial intelligence threat detection (Windows only)
The free tool also comes with a 30-day free trial for Sophos Home Premium and its expanded set of features. You’ll still have access to the above list of features once the free trial ends.
Kaspersky’s well-known antivirus software can be utilized for free on Windows computers. This software is far more limited than most of the other options on this list.
Kaspersky meets our criteria by providing:
- Real-time virus monitoring
- Free quarantines and malware blocking
- Free malware removal
If you’re looking for more, you can upgrade your Kaspersky Antivirus software for a host of additional features. The software also works with Android devices.
Still, if all you’re looking for is a lightweight, free antivirus solution for your computer, Kaspersky is a very good option. The company focuses its free tool solely on real-time monitoring and does not extend any bonuses to free customers. Nevertheless, the free tool utilizes the company’s quality antivirus engine at no cost to you.
6. Adaware Antivirus Free – Windows
Now onto the 12th version of its software, Adaware Antivirus provides a solid option for those who want quality antivirus on the cheap.
For free, you’ll get the following features through Adaware Antivirus:
- Real-time protection against malicious processes and infected files
- Automatic protection against malware infection, including spyware and ransomware
- Automatic downloads scanning to help protect against dangerous files
The software utilizes a powerful and intelligent engine to scan for and block malware, making it a great free antivirus option. Should you find yourself in need of more features, you can more than triple the number of features by purchasing one of Adaware’s paid versions.
Should I stick with Windows Defender?
We won’t blame you if you want to stick with Windows Defender. For many everyday computer users, Windows Defender is probably good enough to get the job done. But if you do a large amount of web browsing, Windows Defender lacks some of the phishing and web protection features that come standard with boutique free tools.
Given the other options are free, we recommend you give them a shot. Third-party AV tools may have conflicts if you try to install more than one at a time, but Windows Defender will automatically disengage once it detects another AV tool is on your computer. Windows Defender also won’t cause any software conflicts with other AV tools.